Consumer Alert: Got mold? Here’s what to do if your landlord won’t clean it up

[anvplayer video=”5190489″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This consumer alert looks at a serious problem that renters often face, mold. I got a call Wednesday from a Rochester renter who just got out of the hospital. She says her apartment is making her sick.

And she’s not alone. I’ve gotten a number of viewer complaints recently including one tenant in Irondequoit. She sent me a picture of the vacant apartment beneath her (picture below).

Mold covered the walls from floor to ceiling. The dramatic mold growth occurred after a pipe burst and the apartment remained damp for days. The renter who lives above the mold infested apartment says her children suffer from rashes and respiratory problems. According to the CDC, people sensitive to mold can develop these symptoms and even lung infections when exposed to mold.

So I contacted the Monroe County Department of Health. And a spokesmen sent me the following response which reads in part, “Since New York does not have public health laws regarding mold, there cannot be public health violations or enforcement. In order to violate a law, there needs to be a law.  Enforcement would require someone breaking that law.”           

She’s right. There are no state or federal laws regarding mold. But perhaps there are municipal codes. So I told our viewer to call her neighborhood service center. That’s the office you call for code enforcement.  For folks in Rochester, there are four offices for each of the city’s quadrants – southeast, southwest, northeast, and northwest. But she says when she called the office, she was told there was nothing code enforcement could do; she should go to a shelter.

So then I contacted the mayor’s office. A spokesperson wrote, “There is not a City code violation for mold because mold is a sign of an underlying issue – those underlying issues are usually code violations themselves. A code officer can absolutely come out to determine the underlying cause, and the City can sometimes help remediate those other issues (though the owner would have to coordinate a contractor to remediate for mold). “

So our viewer definitely needs to call code enforcement again. But now I have a host of other questions.  Landlords are bound by a legal term called a Warranty of Habitability, it simply means the rental property must be safe and livable at all times. So might mold growth be a violation of that provision of New York property law? I’m digging for answers for you. Answers in the next consumer alert.